Let’s face it – holidays are known for being fun and festive, but they can easily become overwhelming. For this reason, Chef Darin Sehnert’s recent cooking class offered through 700 Kitchen Cooking School at the Mansion on Forsyth Park focused on how to plan, prepare, and present your holiday meal with ease, making your holiday festivities, well, festive.
Have no fear about the holidays being over – classes are offered year round, and there are typically six different class topics per month, with sessions about 4–6 times a week. Private classes are also available.
I attended one of Chef Darin’s classes to experience it first–hand. The class I attended was hands–on right from the beginning. After a brief introduction of himself and the menu for the day, Chef Darin asked for volunteers for help in the beginning steps of preparing the meal, and the cooking began.
The particular focus of this class was Savannah Christmas Brunch. On the menu was: ambrosia compote, corn and scallion muffins, eggs in a nest of creamy greens, savory grits souffle, and “banana pudding” crepes with a warm Bailey’s toffee sauce.
Chef Darin taught the class valuable cooking skills that they can take home and use in their own kitchens.
“Obviously, the focus is on the recipes, but the way I would describe it is: the recipes are the vehicle that I am using to teach the skills, to teach the confidence, and to teach the understanding of technique and recipes,” he says.
Chef Darin stressed knife skills. After being taught how to cut properly, the class got to practice their cutting skills while cutting the food for the day’s recipes. He also taught the class how to do simple things that commonly get done incorrectly, like measuring flour.
“In each of the classes, I try to provide layers of learning,” he says. “So even if it’s just ‘Hey, this is a knife, and I need to know how to use it,’ or ‘I love to bake, and I know to use two bowls, but I don’t know why it is important,’ I try to provide different layers for people that are at different skill levels so that everyone can feel that they took something away from it.”
After working on some individual cutting skills, the class broke up into stations, with each station working on a different recipe. The groups got to rotate through the stations, giving everyone an opportunity to do each different task.
Somewhat unusually, the meal was completely prepared by our class. Nothing was pre–made for us by Chef Darin – as is the case in most cooking shows where they tell you how to make it, but have a finished dish already at hand. It was entirely up to the class to make the meal.
At the end of the class, we went over some “buffet psychology,” which taught about how to make sure the guests get small portions so that there is enough food to go around, etc. We also learned how to display our meal in a beautiful, yet functional manner.
Finally, it was time to enjoy our creation. We each fixed ourselves a plate and relaxed after a busy few hours of cooking.
Chef Darin has held a chef’s position post formal education for 16 years. He has been teaching since 1994.
“My first position after school was actually as a chef instructor for the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona,” he explains. “It was a total accident. I never intended on going down the route of teaching, but love it and am thrilled that it happened.
“I fell in love with the personal enrichment aspect of teaching.”
Although the holidays have come to a close, Chef Darin continues to offer classes that will help improve cooking skills, making life a little easier when it comes to preparing a meal, whether you are cooking for a small or large crowd. The classes offered in January range from cooking Lowcountry cuisine to cuisine suitable for a French bistro.
For more information visit: www.700kitchen.com. Contact Chef Darin: firstname.lastname@example.org
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